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Report: Florida governor pushes bill that would allow armed citizens to use deadly force against looters, rioters

A response to this summer's unrest

SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is pushing "anti-mob" legislation that would reportedly allow citizens to confront looters with firepower.

The bill, which comes after months of civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd's death, would broaden Florida's Stand Your Ground law by expanding the "forcible felonies" list to justify the use of deadly force against individuals engaged in criminal activity resulting in "interruption or impairment" to a business, according to the Miami Herald.

That legislation would also justify deadly force used against individuals engaged in looting businesses within 500 feet of a "violent or disorderly assembly."

Currently, Florida state law declares:

A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

"Forcible felonies" in Florida include: murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, robbery, kidnapping, assault, battery, aggravated stalking, carjacking, among others, and "any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual."

Also, the bill DeSantis is promoting would give immunity to motorists who "unintentionally killed or injured protesters who block traffic," the Herald reported.

The bill would also withhold state funding from local governments if they make "disproportionate funding reductions" to police budgets.

What was the reaction?

Although the legislation has not yet been filed with the Florida Legislature, legal experts are concerned the bill would encourage vigilantism and result in unnecessary deaths over mere property crimes.

"It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions," Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor, told the Herald.

She added, "It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly."

Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Aubrey Webb agreed that the proposed bill "dangerously gives armed private citizens power to kill as they subjectively determine what constitutes 'criminal mischief' that interferes with a business."

"The Boston Tea Party members would have been lawfully shot under Florida's law by the British East India Tea Company," Webb told the Herald.
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